Tiyul in Tanya Part 7: Gaining Clarity
To understand all the aforesaid clearly an explanation is needed, as also to under-stand what Job said [Bava Batra, ch. i], “Lord of the universe, Thou hast created righteous men and Thou hast created wicked men,…” for it is not preordained whether a man will be righteous or wicked.
In order to understand how to properly classify(for the moment we are going to work within this illusion, granted it ultimately breaks down, as the Leshem, Rav Shimon Algasi and other major mekubalim write that even in the world to come we will still be beinonim with choice, avodah[service], aveira[sin], reward and punishment) each. What is a Tzadik, what is a Beinoni, what is a Rasha? How do those things exist? In order to do that we need to examine a few more bits in order to get a full picture of what exactly we are talking about. Then we can explore how all of those things touch upon our worship of Hashem, and the questions that they force us to ask of ourselves as we continue upon our path of service.
Job’s statement is also perplexing. If the full piece in the Gemarra he is arguing, what is in his mind, the fundamental unfairness of creation. An ox is born with cloven hooves, yet a donkey is not… thus they have no equality(seemingly) in the basest potential. He makes the same argument about men claiming that some are compelled to sin by the status and circumstances of their birth, while others are born to be tzadikim.
However as the Baal HaTanya states that this is not true at all. There is an aphorism in the Gemarra, אין חסיד עם הארץ “A Chasid is not an Am HaAretz.” This applied in the Gemarra and it applies equally today to the study of Chassidut. So surely you would know that on Niddah 16b is found the rest of the story. There it says before a soul descends into a body Hashem decrees whether it will be wise or foolish, rich or poor, handsome or ugly ect. However the Gemarra than asks if it decrees whether it will be righteous or wicked and says, “Everything is in the hands of heaven except for the fear of heaven.”
It is also necessary to understand the essential nature of the rank of the Inter¬mediate.
This is especially so since this is ultimately the place where we all fall out. From the greatest Admur to the humblest Jew, each is according to his level a Beinoni. Rav Kaduri ZTzUK”L used to call himself a beinoni. How could this be? It was a matter of perspective. He told several mashalim(parables) explaining this. One he said over to me was, “So you passed your Rabbanut Exam with Alef Alef… very nice, how do you compare with Rav Ovadia Yosef?” His point was poignant and clear, whatever level you achieve, there is always another one(or 100) left to attain. The Gemarra says that a man does not die with half of his desires in his hands, Rav Yaakov Hillel in his work Ascending the Path says this also applies to Torah and Righteousness. The Gra in his biur on Mishle(chapter 16) says that a man is called a holek(walker) because his way is to constantly be moving, there is no standing still. If he thinks he is standing still and enjoying some level that he has attained he is in fact falling backward.
Surely that cannot mean one whose deeds are half virtuous and half sinful, for if this were so, how could Rabbah err in classifying himself as a Benoni? For it is known that he never ceased studying [theTorah], so much so that the Angel of Death could not over¬power him; how, then, could he err to have half of his deeds sinful, G-d forbid?
The status of a Beinoni has very little to do with one’s deeds. Quite obviously the Angel of Death had to trick Rabbah into wanting to sacrifice himself in order to be able to kill him(see Bava Metzia 86a). Though, as the Baal HaTanya will point out, at times that label is given to such a person, in that case it is not discussing an actual Beinoni, but rather it is a colloquialism that is applied. We run into such things throughout Torah literature. Take the word Zonah for instance, it is applied, even in the Torah as a colloquialism for a prostitute, however, in halakhic terms, it has nearly nothing to do with prostitution. In fact a woman could well be a prostitute, so long as she is properly selective in her clientele and never attain the status of a Zonah.
Essentially what the Baal HaTanya is warning us here is to not conflate the colloquialism with the “halakhic” definition. They are not necessarily the same. Since his basic thesis will be, as it is spelled out over about 20 chapters, that we are all Beinonim, he wants up front to let us know that he is not giving us license to misbehave. One cannot say, “well I am a Beinoni, so I’m expected to sin here and there.” Rather a Beinoni, as he will say is one who still has an evil inclination, and again since as the Gemarra says, and the Arizal quotes at the start of Shaar Ruah HaKodesh, “There is no Tzadik that does only right and does not sin.” We are all, from Moshe Rabbeinu, to the humblest Jew, a Beinoni.